[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]

Re: Scientific American book



    Now that I have finished reading the The Scientific American Book of
Dinosaurs I would like to share my reflections on it for the benefit of any
Listers who are still wondering whether it is worth their while to part with
$35. (ISBN 0-312-26226-4, http://www.stmartins.com )
    The book¹s 29 articles are arranged into 8 ³chapters.² Each  is
introduced by editor Greg Paul who also contributes 5 of the articles. The
subjects range across anatomy, physiology, behavior, etc. This is not an
encyclopedic coverage of dinosaur subjects. To my mind the glue that holds
the collection together is Greg¹s prudently reasoned commentaries.
    Nine articles appear to be reprints of former SA articles, 3 are updated
versions of previous articles, and 18 are new articles. They are written at
typical SA level, ie., for an educated lay audience. Despite the familiarity
of the subject, there are still (at least for me) some new and useful ideas.
Rather than review these (as the list will be different for each reader) let
me note a few of the articles that held special interest for me.
    Leahy¹s article gives insightful perspective on the anatomy & physiology
of respiratory & digestive systems.
    Paul¹s article on ³Restoring .. dinosaurs² is chock full of useful
observations about anatomy.
    Olshevsky minces few words about how dinosaurs are named.
    Varriccio¹s article ³Reproduction and parenting² replaces Horner¹s 1984
article. It nicely summarizes what¹s known to date (or at least up to late
1999).
    Curry Rogers¹ paper on growth rates demystifies some of the terminology
of bone histology. Eg,. what do ³fibro-lamellar² and ³plexiform² really
mean? And how does that enable us to estimate growth rates?
    Barrick argues dispassionately and effectively for taking an
³intermediate² view of dinosaur metabolism. And to expect that many baby
dinos had some sort of insulation.
    Rich et al. update the 1993 article and make Australia¹s dinosaurs even
more interesting than I¹d imagined.
    None of the articles seems designed to get the reader¹s blood to
boiling. Many seem to stand back and reach for some perspective. The only
author who sticks his neck out (other than Bakker in his unrevised 1975
article) is Paul, who in the final article looks ahead to imagine what
computing and dino science may be like 100 years hence. Good fun.
    A special bonus is at the end of the book. Eight pages of Greg Paul¹s
lateral & dorsal views of locomoting dinosaur skeletons. Over 80 dino genera
plus a few birds & mammals.
    There are some slip ups. The most egregious as noted earlier by
Orenstein and Holtz is the lack of an index which seriously diminishes the
book¹s usefulness as a reference. And the frequent excellent drawings of
Greg Paul do not make up for the lack of graphs and other illustrations that
we expect of SA and which have here been mostly expunged from the original
articles. Makes for a cheaper book, but ...
    I am not sure of the sense of the sentence at the top of p. 233, and on
p. 316 4° is written as 40°. Also there is no list of references even though
several authors employ them in their texts. The list of ³Suggested readings²
at the end of the book often omit the publication dates. Under ³Author
biographies²: Bakker has not been associated with the Tate since early 1999,
and the J took a walk from ³ames O. Farlow.²
    In summary, from my perspective as a serious amature, it is an
interesting and informative book and a welcome addition to my library.
    ...   Dick Peirce,  Pasadena, CA.